Children at the Connectional VBS, hosted by Piney Mount UMC in Tennille, participated in two mission projects. For one, they divided into teams and competed to see who could donate the most canned goods.
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Four small, rural churches in the North Central District came alive this summer as they partnered to do more together than they could individually.
Piney Mount United Methodist in Tennille, Tennille First United Methodist Church, Davisboro United Methodist Church, and New Hope United Methodist joined forces June 10 through June 13 for a Connectional Vacation Bible School.
How do four congregations – a few without children or youth of their own – host a successful VBS program? That was the question some asked when discussing whether or not to participate, said Rev. Mike Bankston, pastor of Piney Mount UMC.
“We found it really easy to work within the United Methodist connection,” he said, noting that all four congregations are in the same cluster and are all in Washington County. “We all feel like that’s what it’s there for. We all have our separate congregations and churches, but we’re all United Methodist and we’re all part of a larger connectional body, and we felt like we could utilize it and pool our resources and do something amazing for the witness of Jesus Christ in Washington County.”
About 50 children, most from outside of Piney Mount UMC, attended the Connectional VBS. This included a busload of children from First Love Kids, a local ministry that serves community children. Thirty volunteers from the four congregations served as teachers, cooks, food servers, storytellers, and more.
Vacation Bible School had been a tradition at Tennille First UMC and a vital part of its children’s ministries, but as the congregation aged there were fewer and fewer children who attended. Still passionate about serving and continuing that important ministry, the congregation was eager to partner in the Connectional VBS.
“It lets us continue to do what we have a passion for, and that’s serving the children,” said Rev. Randall Smith, pastor of Tennille First UMC. “We share our resources, teach, and prepare and serve the food. It keeps us active in an area where we really have a passion. We had the passion in our cluster to combine our talents and gifts and resources, and it was a really good way for us to work as a community.”
Not only have the congregations come together for Vacation Bible School, but they’ve found joy in the connection on Christmas Eve and Ash Wednesday as they’ve held joint services that utilize the resources and talents of all the churches. This helps their witness to the community and expands their ministries, Rev. Smith said, and brings the congregations together with a unified purpose.
“It allows us to do more than we could do on our own,” he said.
“We’re small, rural churches, and we have our own services, but it’s so much more meaningful when we can come together and share in all of this. It’s fun. We’re connectional, so let’s do it!”